SIA’s post following MH17 crash insensitive and classless

From ‘ SIA says sorry for insensitive post on MH17′, 19 July 2014, article in CNA

Singapore Airlines (SIA) on Saturday (July 19) apologised for its social media postings following the crash of Malaysia Airlines MH17. “We are aware that our Facebook and Twitter update on Friday morning may have come across as insensitive to some,” an SIA spokesperson said in reply to queries from Channel NewsAsia. The post was in response to requests from customers who had asked for information about the airline’s flight routes, the spokesperson said in a statement.

…Following the MH17 crash, SIA had posted on Facebook and Twitter a single-sentence message which said: “Customers may wish to note that Singapore Airlines flights are not using Ukraine airspace”. It posted another message an hour later, which said: “Our thoughts are with the passengers and crew of MH17 and their families.”

But the first post had attracted a storm of criticism from netizens by then, who called the post “inappropriate” and “opportunistic”.

Facebook user Michael Reit said in a post: “How about at least acknowledging the terrible event and sending condolences to those families and friends involved instead of this cold, classless update?” Another user, Su Sripathy SIA, wrote: “Your posting was just tacky….and inappropriate at a time like this.”

That’s the problem with the 140 word Twitter limit. If SIA had combined the condolences and reassurance in a single post, it wouldn’t have drawn such flak, though practically speaking the info on re-routing planes in flight, in my opinion, was more useful for the purpose of placating the loved ones of their airborne customers than expressing shock and sadness at the catastrophe. It was a close call for SIA still, with SQ351 just 25km away from the ill-fated MAS airline, and even if they wouldn’t post it, executives in the boardroom must have been thanking their lucky stars that it wasn’t their plane that was at the receiving end of a surface-to-air missile. SIA’s post was ‘cold’ and restrained because it HAD to be. They’re in the business of sending people to places, not wreaths and well-wishes.

Even if I had lost someone on that plane, I would understand the purpose of SIA’s announcement. What I would find ‘insensitive’ and upsetting would be news of people escaping the tragic flight by the skin of their teeth, like ‘Phew, thank God I wasn’t on that plane’, rubbing salt on my wound. Or jokes for that matter. Malaysia’s own Chef Wan posted a ‘distasteful’ joke about a missing door of MH370 he found in Perth. American comedian actor Jason Biggs asked if anyone wanted to buy his Malaysian Airlines frequent flyer miles after the MH17 disaster. Until today, most of us only knew him as the guy who stuck his dick in a pie. Notorious parody Twitter troll SMRT (Feedback) couldn’t resist either.

Then there’s ‘satirical cartoons’, like this from the London Times.

The downing of MH17 is also conspiracy theory fodder, with some reports suggesting that the CURE FOR AIDS could have been on that plane following the demise of 6 top AIDS researchers on their way to a major conference. TNP went for a ‘spooky coincidence’ angle, pointing to the number 7 as an ‘uncanny’ recurrence, ignoring the fact that there is no 7 in the number of people dead. Where’s the public outcry here? Excuse me while I check the winning 4D numbers for this week (7949, 19 July 14). Gasp!

Of course, those people slamming SIA for being ‘insensitive’ and ignoring anyone else joking or garnering attention at the expense of hundreds of deaths are themselves doing absolutely nothing for the bereaved other than fighting for sympathy online. They’re probably never going to take MAS for the rest of their lives, nor will they petition the international community to bring the killers to justice. In times like these, it’s probably better to leave the condemnation and justice-seeking to the governments, and engage in more important things like spending time with your loved ones instead of complaining to the press about SIA’s ‘inappropriate’ post.


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SIA relaunching premium economy class

From ‘SIA to offer premium economy class’, 10 May 2014, article by Karamjit Kaur, ST

TRAVELLERS who want extra comfort but do not want to pay business-class fares will soon get a compromise option on some Singapore Airlines (SIA) flights. After years of deliberation, the airline has confirmed it will offer a premium economy class from the second half of next year, joining a long list of carriers such as Cathay Pacific, Air France and Qantas.

As the name suggests, premium economy is better than economy class and typically offers more legroom, wider seats and better amenities, such as access to airport lounges in some cases. Fares can range from about 30 to 40 per cent more to as much as double what economy class costs.

The product has proven to be especially popular for mid- and long-haul flights, which is the sector SIA is targeting, chief executive officer Goh Choon Phong told reporters and analysts yesterday.

…The last time SIA had a premium economy class was six years ago on its non-stop flights to the United States. Flying high on strong demand for high-end travel then, SIA decided in 2008 to strip out the premium economy seats and have business class-only flights. But the timing was poor as the global financial crisis hit a few months later, dampening demand for premium long-haul travel. SIA eventually terminated the non-stop flights last year.

…The airline will introduce its premium economy product first on its Boeing 777-300ER and Airbus 380 aircraft that operate mid- to long-haul routes, he said. No other details were given.

This announcement came right after news that SIA suffered an operating loss of $60 million over the last quarter. Last month, the airlines were declared as the title sponsor for the F1 race, with hopes of ‘reinforcing the brand’ in the face of stiff competition in the region. It wasn’t too long ago that even the Singapore Girl had to be subject to makeover, with the famous blue eyeshadow getting the boot. Things are still looking blue at the moment, with Singapore Air shares slumping in 2013, and pilots asked to ‘volunteer’ for unpaid leave that same year as a cost-cutting exercise amid a global economic slowdown. I wonder if management even considered the MERS situation before pushing for premium economy.

In 2004, SIA already had a version of premium economy known then as ‘executive economy’. For a non-stop flight to New York, your $2050 ticket includes a personal 23 cm screen, 94 cm legroom and ‘passenger areas to socialise’. Forget about the 350 movies, songs and video games, just head over to the self-service snack bar and NETWORK dammit. Because that’s what people do on long flights; getting to know total STRANGERS over  a glass of champagne, in an area that could easily fit another 2 economy class seats. More like Business Class Lite, really.

A great way to fly. And make friends.

A great way to fly. And make friends.

When SIA dropped their premium economy in 2008 on long-haul flights to US, converting to all business class flights, it drew the wrath of economy travellers who had to take the alternative indirect routes, Sumiko Tan included.  It took another 5 years for SIA to realise it’s time to make a comeback, but now have to lag behind the pioneers of premium economy, in addition to competing for the budget service market while rescuing the flailing Tigerair, which just lost their CEO. During that time, we launched the SUITE CLASS, where you can enjoy the privacy of a personal cabin, a side desk and have CANAPES for lunch. Business travellers’ needs are top on the list of SIA’s priorities of course, making up 40% of SIA’s revenue as of 2008, which explains why they have white tablecloths while we economy folks struggle with a flipboard everytime we want to take a piss after meals.

Business chopsticks.

Non-disposable chopsticks

In an industry where travelers are constantly on the lookout for ‘no-frills’, SIA has decided to go the other way and ‘frill-ise’ their carriers. Some aviation experts contend that creating a ‘sandwich class’ between business and economy would mean more business folks downgrading instead, if they’re willing to give up their ‘exquisitively upholstered’ leather seats and fully flat beds. There appears to be a demand, however, for such upgrades from ‘cattle class’ among other airlines. EVA air’s Elite Class (formerly Evergreen Deluxe) serves your food on PORCELAIN plates. Turkish Airlines’ Comfort Class once promised 116 cm of seat pitch (the best indicator for leg room), but had to abandon the idea as it turned out to be unprofitable. British Airways provides the same food as Business Class, plus a ‘amenities kit’ containing a toothbrush, eyemask and flight socks. It looks like it’s up to our Singapore Girl to make our premium economy a class apart from the rest, blue eyeshadow or no.

Maybe the new service would need to give you not just a hot towel to freshen up, but a pot of herbal tea and a footrub service, in order to stay competitive. Meanwhile, the rest of us galley slaves, I mean, economy class passengers, continue to settle for mixed nuts and the baby that just won’t shut up for the entirety of our odyssey.



Air steward sueing SIA after luggage fell on his neck

From ‘Air steward sues SIA’, claiming cabin bag fell and injured him’, 9 April 2014, article by Selina Lum, ST

A Singapore Airlines (SIA) air steward, who says he was injured when a bag fell from the overhead compartment, is suing the airline for around $500,000. But SIA has countered that 42-year-old K. Jotheeswaran Kaniyasan is lying and that the incident never happened. Instead, air stewardess Hezrin Hilmi, who Mr Jotheeswaran said saw the 2009 incident, has filed an affidavit stating that she did not.

SIA has also alleged that her signature on the cabin crew accident report which the steward submitted to the airline was forged.

In his lawsuit, which opened yesterday and is scheduled to run for 12 days, Mr Jotheeswaran said that on July 8, 2009 he was helping passengers as they boarded a plane at an airport in Chennai, India. That was when a bag fell from an overhead compartment and landed on the back of his neck.

Despite treatment for back pain, his condition did not improve. Five months later, he had spinal surgery. But even after this and physiotherapy, he said he still suffers from neck pain and numbness in his left arm. He said in his claim that he has developed a degenerative disease in his spine.

To my surprise, someone has been successful in a suit against SIA for deadly falling luggage before. In March 2004, the High Court awarded $600,000 in compensation to Dr Euan Murugasu after he was attacked by a falling suitcase, leaving him with headaches, double vision and costing him his job as an ENT surgeon. In 2007, traveller Mark David Ryan, vice president of DBS bank, claimed SPINAL CORD INJURY after getting hit on the head by a bag containing a DSLR camera, an accident which he believed was the cabin crew’s fault. It appears that issuing helmets could save the airlines more money than safety belts. Nobody’s going to sue NParks for negligence if a tree branch falls on their face.

Killer baggage aside, even the food that SIA serves could hurt you. A British passenger in 2000 once tried to sue the airlines for serving PINEAPPLE juice with shards of glass inside, each as big as ‘five carat diamonds‘. Turns out that Stephen Golding falsified a radiographer’s report, and SIA proceed to counter-sue him for fraud. In 1993, a NZ woman took legal action against SIA after she had hot COFFEE spilled on her (New Zealand woman takes SIA to court over coffee spill, 1 Nov 1993, ST). A year before that, a similar incident happened at a US McDonalds’ outlet, where an elderly lady was awarded 2.9 million after sustaining third degree burns from the piping hot beverage.

But what about cabin crew themselves seeking claims from their own employer over inflight injuries? In another heavy-luggage related 2011 incident, stewardess Li Na wasn’t satisfied with a $250,000 payout after she suffered a back injury, seeking further compensation from SIA when it was in fact a passenger who knocked into her while she was lifting luggage in the first place.  In 2007, steward S Manikam blamed SIA for failing to order the crew to cease breakfast service during turbulence, resulting in him falling against an armrest, eventually developing REFLEX SYMPATHETHIC DYSTROPHY. SIA countered that he should have known better. Sometimes even part of your uniform can physically maim you, as what happened to an ex-stewardess who in 2002 sued SIA for sandals that gave her ‘foot problems’ (Ex stewardess sues SIA over ‘problem sandals’, 23 Jan 2002, ST). Not only are those an eyesore to some travellers, but serve as ancient Chinese foot binders cum torture devices as well.

You’re liable to head-to-toe injury risk if you work on a SIA plane, and given the hazards on board, turbulence and passengers included, this hardly comes as a surprise. Falling luggage, however, presents a complex whoddunit. Is it SIA’s fault if passengers carry dumbells in their bags, overload the overhead compartments, or do not position their stuff properly? Should cabin crew be trained to detect when a bag compartment is beyond its tipping point and be drilled in Baggage Dodging? If you could pay half a million to a passenger when a bag falls on him out of no reason at all, shouldn’t your own staff be entitled the same?

Here’s a tip for any claim nonetheless, whether you’re hit by a trolley bag, scalded by coffee or tea or have your feet run over by a meal servicecart: Don’t just settle for ‘neck injury’ or ‘nerve damage’. Do your research. The longer and more convoluted-sounding your illness is, the scarier the prognosis, the better your chances of winning a suit.

A Singapore Airlines (SIA) air steward, who says he was injured when a bag fell from the overhead compartment, is suing the airline for around $500,000.

But SIA has countered that 42-year-old K. Jotheeswaran Kaniyasan is lying and that the incident never happened. Instead, air stewardess Hezrin Hilmi, who Mr Jotheeswaran said saw the 2009 incident, has filed an affidavit stating that she did not.

SIA has also alleged that her signature on the cabin crew accident report which the steward submitted to the airline was forged.

In his lawsuit, which opened yesterday and is scheduled to run for 12 days, Mr Jotheeswaran said that on July 8, 2009 he was helping passengers as they boarded a plane at an airport in Chennai, India.

That was when a bag fell from an overhead compartment and landed on the back of his neck.

Despite treatment for back pain, his condition did not improve.

Five months later, he had spinal surgery. But even after this and physiotherapy, he said he still suffers from neck pain and numbness in his left arm. He said in his claim that he has developed a degenerative disease in his spine.

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Singapore flag painted backwards on SIA plane

From ‘Flag painted wrongly’, 18 July 2013, ST Forum

(Ganesh Ram Ragavan): WHEN I flew from Changi Airport recently, I noticed that the Singapore national flag was painted in the wrong orientation on several Singapore Airlines aircraft.

SIA planes serve as ambassadors for our country. So I hope SIA will look into this matter with urgency and resolve it.

A simple Google search will explain to you why flags are painted the ‘wrong way’ is an airline convention (because it’s meant to mimic how a flag will appear when a plane is moving forward and there’s a pole next to the crescent). Obviously, the writer was only looking at the plane on its right side, because if he had the chance to view the left side, he would see the flag in the ‘correct’ orientation, ‘blowing’ in the wind, as it would appear if one had imagination. Also, if it were a genuine cock-up, what are the chances of it happening on SEVERAL aircraft?

In 2007, someone was sharp enough to spot the same ‘mistake’ on the news and felt that SIA should be alerted.

In 1989, SIA responded to the exact same query and defended the convention by saying that the airline flies the flag PROUDLY and NORMALLY. Though it’s a harmless enough question to ask in private like why AMBULANCE is spelt backwards, one should at least do some basic research before suggesting in the press that SIA has committed a careless, unpatriotic act. I expected SIA to give a robust response to this letter, and here it is published the following day in ST Forum 19 July 2013:

…According to flag etiquette, a national flag should never be seen to be flying backwards.

For this reason, a mirror image of the Singapore flag is painted on the starboard (right) side of our aircraft fuselages, as shown in the photo that was published.

Perhaps they should have also sent the writer a model plane as a gift so he can figure out how this magical reverse flag phenomenon works. If you don’t like to play with small planes, you just need a mini Singapore flag and a fan to quench your curiosity.

I’m not sure, though, if you may put up the flag outside your house FACING you and use the imaginary flagpole argument to explain why it appears wrong to those looking in from the outside. Or if it’s legal to display the flag SIA style on your car or motorcycle and give the police a lesson in how the wind blows if they stop you for questioning. Well at least they didn’t paint it UPSIDE DOWN, though that’s how our flags have been raised once in a while.

Tiger Airways ditching leaping tiger logo

From ‘Tiger Airways rebranded to claw market share’, 4 July 2013, article by Karamjit Kaur, ST

BUDGET carrier Tiger Airways has ditched its leaping tiger and changed its name to Tigerair – all part of a major rebranding to boost market size and shareholder value.

The changes are not just cosmetic, said group chief executive officer Koay Peng Yen, as he unveiled the new look at Changi Airport yesterday.

“Customers who fly with us understand that we are not providing five-star service or fine dining. We are your hawker centre, but even as a hawker centre, you have to do things well,” he said.

If Tigerair is a ‘hawker centre’, then it shouldn’t matter what you do to your logo as long as you fly at dirt cheap prices does it? I’m also supposed get my food (i.e board a flight) FASTER at a hawker centre compared to  fine dining. Koay’s toothless analogy for budget services is similar to that of a Tiger Australia spokesperson who remarked that ‘You can’t expect a champagne experience on a beer budget’. For some companies, you’re likely to get the tap water experience for the price of beer.

Marketing experts claim that unlike household brands like Apple or Nike, dropping the pouncing tiger icon will not make a difference to customers who recognise airlines by name and quality of service rather than mascot artwork.  Others felt that the previous logo was a little ‘brash’ and ‘in-your-face’, like the cover of a box of ‘penis pills‘. Rival carrier AirAsia mocked the Tiger concept in 2010, releasing a full page ad that read ‘If Tigers were meant to Fly, they would be born with wings’. But who says you can’t have a land animal as a plane mascot? Here’s a sample of international carriers with animal logos OTHER than birds or Pegasuses.

Cheetah or Leopard, I’m not sure

Oryx. If your child can name this animal under ‘O’ instead of ‘Ox’, he’s a genius.

Dolphin Air is based in Dubai. DUBAI

But of course..

Not many bother to scrutinise our very own SIA’s logo to realise that it’s in fact a yellow bird, an icon that has been PATENTED since 1977 as part of the company trademark known as the SIA and BIRD DEVICE. In 1981, SIA took legal action against a US airline for using a design that uncannily resembles ours, the infringing party claiming that they’ve never heard of SIA nor seen its logo. Today, with our Singapore Girl in her sarong kebaya being the face the airline, it doesn’t matter whether it’s a yellow bird, Merlion or a seahorse on the plane’s tail fin( I always thought it was a stylised letter ‘Z’ though). Till this day, no one has identified what kind of bird it’s supposed to be, though it’s obviously a far cry from our ‘national bird’, the Crane.

‘Tiger’ as a brand name is rumoured to be the brainwave of RyanAir founder Tony Ryan’s seven-year old grandson. Other sources say it came from the old Malayan Airlines flying tiger logo, which doesn’t look out of place on a 70’s futurist prog-rock band’s album cover . If Tiger had stuck to this mutant flying beast with  WINGS and all (which also looks like the work of a 7 year old),  AirAsia would have had nothing to pick on.

With a name like Tiger, you’re asking for puns galore with or without the big cat on your logo. 10 years ago, Mr Brown imagined beer girls in minis on deck asking ‘Ai Lim Tiger, Mai?’. A year later, a ‘Catfight’ broke out between Tiger Airways and a UK company of the same name. The carrier ‘ROARS’ into new destinations and threatens to MAUL its competitors with cheaper rates. If you make it to senior management in the company, you’ve earned your ‘stripes’ (also the name of its VIP club). On it’s 8th anniversary in 2012, Tiger held a DEN party at Changi Airport T2. Even its inflight magazine is called ‘Tiger Tales’. I wonder if you get a tummy ache on board after eating their food they’d give you Tiger Balm. No, those puns aren’t going away with the rebranding. They’ll always CLAW their way back somehow.

Singapore Girl announcing that she’s from China

From ‘Stewardess making announcements:Why the need to specify her origins?’, 25 May 2013, ST Forum

(Kua Bak Lim): WHEN on board a recent Singapore Airlines Beijing/Singapore flight, I was puzzled when the flight stewardess who made announcements in Mandarin identified herself as someone from China. It struck me as odd that the airline found it necessary to make such a distinction when it came to announcements in Mandarin.

I then asked the in-flight supervisor whether the stewardess or steward on board an SIA flight to London needed to declare that he or she was from the United Kingdom when making announcements. The answer was no. This piece of personal information about the staff is completely irrelevant to the announcements, regardless of the language spoken.

This, in my view, tends to be divisive for the staff on board. I also find it disconcerting for SIA’s image as a world-class international airline. One also cannot help but notice that there seems to be the subtle insinuation that Singaporeans cannot speak good Mandarin, which is certainly not true.

Would the SIA management please comment?

There’s no need for an SIA stewardess from China to announce her origins simply because her accent and grammatical precision would be a dead giveaway, if the intention is to cater to PRCs on board. SIA has been hiring foreign staff for a while now so it’s no secret,  though they still insist on keeping the ‘Singapore Girl’ moniker.  As of April 2013, 7 out of 10 cabin crew are locals, with Malaysians, Thais, Chinese, Indians, Japanese and Koreans making up the numbers. It is perhaps the only airline in the world to brand their attendants after a nationality. Even Air India doesn’t call their ladies ‘India Girl’, nor China Airlines ‘China Girl’. The latter is also derogatory in the local context, often associated with mistresses and illegal immigrants than a glamorous profession that involves pushing foodcarts up and down a aisle asking if people want the chicken or the beef.

Interestingly, according to the SIA recruitment site, it’s a prerequisite to be ‘proficient in English and Mandarin’ if you’re a Taiwanese, whereas the requirement specified for candidates from China is just ‘a HIGH level of English proficiency’, though I believe the average Chinese or Taiwanese native could deliver any announcement in Mandarin without much difficulty at all. No such language criteria has been set for the Singaporean candidate, though you’d need to have A and O Level credits in General Paper and English respectively. Which means you can fail your Chinese exams and still become a successful Singapore Girl. But having splendid passes in GP or even Chinese doesn’t necessarily make you proficient in ANY language. The writer above seems highly optimistic about our locals’ standards of spoken Mandarin, but if we were that good we wouldn’t need ‘Speak Mandarin campaigns’. Even ang mo children put Chinese Singaporean adults like myself to shame. I can only remember one Chinese nursery rhyme during my childhood, the one that goes ‘san zi lao hu’ (Three Tigers, Three Tigers, run very fast, run very fast, one has no eyes, one has no ears, very strange, very strange), compared to today’s non-Chinese kids reciting Confucian EPICS like San Zi Jing.

So how many Singaporeans you know are actually up to the task of delivering a message to international travellers over a PA system? How many can deliver a simple interview to a Mandarin news crew in full sentences? How about telling a Chinese tourist the TIME? Not a lot, apparently.  Ex Mediacorp actor Ix Shen says we have a TOTAL DISREGARD for grammar and sentence construction. Sumiko Tan posits that English educated folks like herself lacked interest in the language because it was forced down our throats and not promoted in a fun, lively way. Journalist and film-maker Pek Siok Lan mocks our ‘half-baked English and half-baked Chinese’. Back in 1981, a Taiwanese professor urged us to ‘DROP Singapore Mandarin’ because we were over -‘translitering’ it. We could consider a Speak Mandarin mascot like Water Wally or Singa, but it would be hard to conceive of a character related to Chinese culture without making it a dragon or coming across as racist and xenophobic.

From a business and customer service standpoint, it’s better for SIA to let a ‘professional’ handle a Mandarin announcement than risk an unseasoned Singaporean butchering it in front of PRCs, generally thought to be so proud of their language they wouldn’t stand for anything slipshod and ‘half-baked’. It would also be a hassle for the cabin crew if PRCs started throwing up their meals because they heard us speak. But you don’t have to tell people you’re from China because it’s obvious and it would confuse everyone about what ‘Singapore Girl’ means. I suppose with enough practice, a true ‘Singapore Girl’ would be able to deliver Mandarin with striking confidence. Maybe that would be the ‘makeover’ that we locals can truly be proud of, a bilingual SIA stewardess who knows what is Chinese for ‘mild turbulence’ and ‘fried mee goreng’, rather than say, toning down on blue eyeshadow.

Singapore Girl’s blue eyeshadow is very 80s

From ‘ Singapore Girl gets a makeover’, 3 April 2013, article by Karamjit Kaur, ST

THE Singapore Girl has junked her bright blue eyeshadow for a more subtle and modern look. She is still immaculate in her body-hugging signature kebaya with her hair nicely done, but the colours on her face are less striking.

In her first major makeover in more than a decade, the iconic Singapore Airlines (SIA) Girl is sticking to blue, green, plum and brown eye make-up, and red lipstick to complement the colours of her kebaya. But the tones and shades are more subtle than before and trendier, said the airline’s head of cabin crew, Mr Marvin Tan. “When we embarked on this project with our long-time grooming partner Lancome, we took into account feedback from some customers that the previous colours seemed to be on the strong side,” he told The Straits Times last week.

…Freelance make-up artist Dollei Seah believes that SIA is taking the right step. “Wearing a blue outfit with blue make-up is very 80s. You can keep the blue but it should not be too much and it should be blended with other shades to create a more natural look.”

…Businessman Alex Wong, 53, said: “I’m glad the SIA Girl is moving towards a softer look. I do think some of them are too heavily made up, especially when compared with girls from other carriers.”

In 2007, David Keith,  president of Asia Pacific, Garner International, urged SIA to ‘get rid of the blue eyeshadow from the days when the Beatles were stomping around’. Experts in the field call it ‘very 80s’, while others mock her ‘screaming red lipstick and over-the-top blue eyeshadow’.  Blogger ‘The Last Alpha Male’ says it ‘basically looks good only if you’re WHITE‘ and ‘not in uniform’. I’m no fashion guru, but it seems blue eyeshadow doesn’t appear to as out-of-date as it’s claimed to be. The ‘electric blue’ look has been pulled off by celebrities such as Katy Perry and Rihanna as recent as 2009. I don’t know how it works on the Asian face without turning out like the evil character in some Chinese opera, or a Japanese manga fairy.

Gyaru blue

With the body-hugging, impractical kebaya still remaining as the signature icon of our Singapore Girl, I’m not sure how this ‘toning down’ of makeup is in any way a ‘makeover’. It’s like trimming your eyebrows or piercing a new earhole and declaring that you’re a ‘new you’. Singapore Girls still bun up their hair, waddle around gingerly and are probably the only stewardesses in the world who wear slippers during work. Having creepy eyeshadow hasn’t stopped our SIA girls from being voted among the world’s  ‘hottest’ stewardesses either, at the risk of their brand being labelled as ‘sexist’ still.

In fact, bright blue eyeshadow is scarcely noticeable from SIA ads and promos in the past, and I suspect feedback of SIA girls looking like the they’re auditioning for a Chinese Ghost Story are purely anecdotal, or exaggerated.

An example of overzealous use of blue makeup however, comes off a Wikipedia page. Even then, I personally have never been shocked by one, or at least not to extent that I thought that I was on an interplanetary flight to Pandora, planet of Avatar, instead of onboard a SIA plane.

The 'new' look

The ‘new’ look

Maybe it’s a guy thing. I wish I could say this tiny change ‘blue’ me away, but it doesn’t. So what gives? Is this an ‘out-of-the-blue’ marketing stunt to get people interested in the Singapore Girl once more? It’s not as if more people will flock to book SIA tickets now because their stewardesses look less like Abba. I personally never had a problem with our SIA girls looking like Twiggy or a roller skating disco dolly (maybe because I can’t afford to fly with them so often) as long as their reputable service standards are up to par, but it’s not so much the putting on of heavy makeup that bothers me, but the putting on of fake accents. No amount of physical grace or ‘subtle, trendy’ shades of blue will compensate for pretentious English in my opinion.

Still a great way to fly, no doubt, but the feathers on this majestic bird haven’t changed one bit.

SIA steward arrested for smuggling heroin

From ‘SIA steward arrested in Sydney for alleged drug offence’, 24 March 2013, article by Ng Jing Yng, Today

A Singapore Airlines (SIA) cabin crew member was arrested last Sunday at Sydney International Airport after he allegedly tried to bring in 1.6kg of heroin.

Nicholas Tan Ngat Liang, 50, was a leading steward who was believed to be on duty during the flight from Singapore to Sydney. In response to TODAY’s queries, a spokesperson from the Australian Federal Police confirmed that a 50-year-old Singaporean was arrested on Sunday and has been charged with “importing a commercial quantity of a border controlled drug, namely heroin”. “The man was arrested for attempting to import 1.6kg of heroin into Australia,” the spokesperson said.

In Australia, the offence carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment and/or an A$825,000 fine (S$1.1 million). Tan’s case was first mentioned in a New South Wales court on Monday.

It’s not reported how Tan carried his stash, all 1.6kg of it, but he is only one of several  Singaporeans who have tried their luck with drug trafficking Down Under.

In 2008, a Singaporean drug mule was caught by Australian authorities with 91 packets of heroin in his stomach (net weight 286 g of heroin), and was forced to defecate the goods over 2 days in a hospital. In 2009, two of our countrymen were raided whilst in a taxi carrying $4.5 million worth of the stuff. Last year, one was caught by Melbourne police smuggling 5kg of the same substance in a heap of Chinese books, while another 2 Singaporeans were charged for stowing 4.5kg of it in a vehicle and a service apartment (Sydney). The most sensational Aussie drug bust to date involving a Singaporean was that of Tan Wee Quay, who was part of a North Korean ‘Pong Su’ ploy to ship in 150kg of heroin in 2003.  According to reports, he was born in the ‘Golden Triangle’ and once blasted his way (with the help from some friends in the heroin business) out of a Danish prison in 2001. He was sentenced to 24 years imprisonment and remains there till this day, being ‘held in high regard’ for his skills as an interpreter. Tan would have been gone in a whiff if he was caught in his home country.

At the rate of our own citizens being hauled up by Aussie police, the perception of government-fearing, law-abiding Singaporeans making perfect drug mules doesn’t hold anymore, even if you’re part of our prestigious airline crew. In the 1980’s, SIA crew members were detained for suspected smuggling of GOLD, once in Seoul, and another incident in Kathmandu. But bad behaviour wasn’t restricted to sneaking in illicit drugs or precious metals. In 2008, A PILOT captain was snared for having child pornography on his laptop (again in Australia, Adelaide to be precise). A chief and leading steward were arrested in Denmark for using a passenger’s credit card to go on a shopping spree in 1982. In 1995, steward Zaini Jeloni was charged for the rape and murder of his female colleague (and alleged lover), Chang Yu, in Los Angeles. There’s even a hint of the paranormal about Chang Yu’s murder and some spooky association with the SQ006 crash in 2000, Taipei (the deceased was of Taiwanese descent).

Maybe it’s the long hours spent airborne and psychological stress of jetlag, or the wrangling over salary and leave entitlements that have plagued the airline of late that drives some SIA personnel to desperation and wilful wrongdoing.  If I were a jetsetting cabin crew myself, I would imagine my experience with immigration checkpoints giving me an edge in couriering contraband too. But why Australia, with its hefty penalty of life imprisonment and its experience in apprehending Singaporeans? The last count of Singaporeans in Australia stands around 50,000. Nobody knows how many of those residing are dope fiends or crime lords, but if you’ve got connections, and you’re an extreme risk-taker at your wits’ end, Australia was probably still a better bet than, say, the chance of execution by firing squad in Vietnam.

Incidentally, Australian drug trafficker Nguyen Tuong Van was hanged in Changi Prison in 2005 (the first to be executed in more than a decade) for carrying 400g of heroin into the country. Tan Ngat Liang had 4 times that amount with him in Sydney.

Scoot uniform like Star Trek

From ‘Scoot or Star Trek?’ 24 June 2012, article by Cheryl Faith Wee, Sunday Times

Tennis outfit, Star Trek uniform or Yves Saint Laurent couture? New budget airline Scoot’s cabin crew attire has caught some people’s attention – but not always in a good way. While parent company Singapore Airlines has seen its fortunes soar, thanks in part to the iconic sarong kebaya worn by its stewardesses, Scoot’s sporty, stretchy sheath has drawn criticism from some passengers.

Mr Jourdan Ng, 29, who works in the finance industry, took a Scoot flight to Sydney two weeks ago. He says the black and yellow body-skimming V-neck dress accentuates curves, but ‘for quite a lot of the stewardesses, it is not very flattering’. ‘The sporty material of the dress makes them look like they had just finished a game of tennis before coming on board,’ he adds. ‘It might be a bit too casual.’

…Local corporate design and production house Esta designed the uniforms for the budget carrier, which started operating flights earlier this month. Male cabin crew wear polo T-shirts with midnight-blue jeans. Esta creative director Esther Tay, 58, says the dress was inspired by current fashion silhouettes and took about a month to design. Its curved, contouring panels are meant to be understated yet chic and stylish.

Similarly, fresh graduate Christine Song, 23, who is contemplating booking a Scoot flight to Australia later this year, says the design ‘does not have that professional uniform feel and is just like a formal work dress’.

… Keith Png of clothing boutique Hide & Seek, who designs his own labels Koops and Keith Png Bespoke, likens the Scoot uniform to an evening dress from the Yves Saint Laurent 1966 Autumn-Winter collection – a long couture dress in navy-blue wool, encrusted with a pink silhouette that resembles a woman’s arched body. Png, 34, says: ‘Scoot’s uniform resembles this signature dress and I like it.’

As ‘iconic’ and timeless as SIA’s uniform is, it’s easy to forget that  the sarong kebaya, and even the stewardesses’ slippers, have also been criticised in the past for lacking functionality and professionalism. Ditch the stifling elegance for something more ‘casual’ and you get passengers complaining that they were suited up at World of Sports. If I needed a flight attendant to rush to my aid on a plane, I’d probably have a higher chance of survival if my rescuer wore something ‘tennis-friendly’ rather than tiptoe gingerly to my seat in a shrink-wrap kebaya. If I were held hostage by a terrorist, it would also be comforting to know that somewhere in the back someone is whispering orders to ‘Set Phasers On Stun’.


Personally, I think the female dress has its own kooky, adventurous style which fits the whimsy way the budget airline is named, despite making the ladies look like one of Marvel’s original Avengers, the WASP. The male top and dark pants however, as flaunted previously a few months back when the uniform was first launched, made them look like flight technicians rather than flight stewards, or like ground crew who load up baggage instead of cabin crew. Even the waiters at Crystal Jade dress better than this. Taking the plunge from SIA’s suit and tie to T-shirt is stretching the dress code from  ‘casual’ to ‘laidback slacker’.  Not sure if ESTA had changed the design to the current ‘polo-T’ since then, but they should at least consider making them a sleeker, tighter-fit if you want men to command greater presence like Jean-Luc Picard  instead of being mistaken for ball-boy stowaways.

Marvel’s own Tinkerbell

Koops’ Keith Png, on the other hand, summons YSL retro stylings, comparing the female dress to something more glamorous befitting of a catwalk. Such arty affection for something as mundane as a budget airline uniform could also explain the similarity in the playful tones between his fashion label Koops and Scoot. Here, there’s no ‘pink silhouette’ of an arched female anatomy, just a stripe of yellow that mimics the markings of winged stinging insects rather than high fashion. More ‘cartoon’ than ‘couture’, rather.

Yes, Scoot Lives


Fly with Scoot Airlines

From ‘Scoot? Likely name of SIA’s budget carrier’, 25 Aug 2011, article in

Scoot Airlines may well be the name of Singapore Airlines’ long-haul budget offshoot.

The Straits Times reported that it ran checks and found that New Aviation, SIA’s wholly owned subsidiary that will run the new entity, has registered “Scoot” as the trademark with the Intellectual Property of Singapore.

When ST asked SIA if “Scoot” was indeed the name chosen for the carrier, company spokesman Nicholas Ionides neither confirmed nor denied the finding.

He said: “Several names have been under consideration, but the management of the new airline is not able to confirm details of the branding at this stage.” The carrier is slated for launch by the middle of next year

Scoot would be an apt name to call an Autobot that transforms into a, well, scooter, but not a budget carrier. Scoot has a zippy, light-hearted exhilarative feel about it, but passengers don’t want a plane sounding like promiscuous bumblebee. They prefer something with a ‘Air’ or ‘Jet’ in it to provide the assurance that the plane actually stays in the air as it’s supposed to, especially for a long haul flight. Air travel is serious business, and even if the risk of a plane being disabled by lightning is next to zero, somehow the thought of ‘Scoot’ Airlines braving turbulence wouldn’t bode well even for the hardiest traveler.

It’s a name you can use for a hang-glider or a World War One biplane,  basically any cute contraption that whirls, spins and chugs as you manoeuvre it, but using it on a carrier  is like giving your bodyguard a name like ‘Twerp’,  ‘Squirt’ or ‘PePe’. You don’t have to be majestic about it, but neither should one give an SIA offshoot a name that can pass off as one of the Seven dwarfs, a zesty carbonated drink (Scoot is It!), a dishwashing liquid (Scoot germs away!) or even a Pokemon (Scoot! I choose you!). Scoot gives a sense of jittery lightness and  smallness, and worse, it carries faecal connoations because Scoot sounds like a hybrid of scat and poo and is onomatopoeia for a wet fart all at the same time.

The word scoot is even outdated in today’s context, and probably hasn’t been seen anywhere in popular media since Archie comics ( ‘Hey, Jughead, could you scoot over and grab me a milkshake?). But here’s a list of rather twee low-cost airline names: Mango (South Africa), Firely ( Malaysia), Wizz *snigger* Air (Hungary). The closest names to ‘Scoot’ are from Canada, ‘Zip’ and ‘Zoom’ Airlines, both now defunct and proof that you should never use action words implying haste in your airline names. One of the worst names ever imagined belonged to an Australian carrier (IMPULSE airlines), which was subsequently renamed to the less dangerous sounding ‘Jetstar’. They might as well have named it ICARUS AIR. So, branding is important for airlines just like any commercial product, which brings me to the evolution of our very successful SIA.

The first suggestions following the Malaysia-Singapore Airlines split in 1971 to register our very own carrier included the likes of National Singapore Airline and MAJULAH Singapore Airline, which is understandable in light of the patriotism behind this pivotal moment in aviation history. In 1972, someone thought of  ‘Mercury Singapore Airlines’, which has a cosmic element to it, though Mercury is the smallest planet (excluding Pluto) and closest to the Sun.  Thankfully, we settled on the simplicity of Singapore Airlines, though SIA has had more than its fair share of success thanks to its stewardesses and a suggestive tagline rather than the brand name itself.


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